It’s an indisputable fact that our planet has reached a climate crisis, and human beings have played a monumental role in the troubling state of our environment.
While we can make small changes in our daily lives to be more eco-friendly, we can’t turn a blind eye to the institutions that are doing the most damage to the environment.
Commercial buildings, like the one you may be sitting in now as you read this, account for nearly 36% of global energy use and almost 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions annually (source).
Many business owners are hesitant to go green because they believe environmentally-friendly business practices cost more money. Don’t worry: we’ll dispel this common myth in today’s blog post. Read on to learn how your business can benefit from going green, as well as some instant steps you can take to make your office more environmentally friendly.
The Benefits of an Eco-Friendly Office
Saving the planet might be the best reason to adopt eco-friendly practices, but it’s far from the only one. Believe it or not, making your office more sustainable will also benefit your employees and your company’s bottom line.
Let’s look at three main benefits of incorporating environmental sustainability practices within your office space.
1. Boost employee engagement.
Environmentally responsible companies have happier, more satisfied, and more engaged employees. Don’t believe us? In fact, a recent study about eco-friendly businesses found “a significant positive relationship between perceived environmental performance and employee satisfaction” (source).
Modern employees don’t just want to make money; they want to make a difference. They want to work for companies that share their personal values — and an overwhelming majority of today’s workers value environmental sustainability. 96% of Millennials are concerned about the environment and expect their employers to take steps towards becoming more sustainable (source). When business leaders commit to environmental sustainability, they inspire, engage, and unite all of their employees through a common cause.
2. Cut costs.
Some of the suggestions on this list will require an upfront investment, but going green ends up saving your business money in the long run. For example, you will significantly reduce your electricity bill when you switch to renewable energy. Using less packaging, replacing single-use items with reusables, and going digital are just a few more examples of eco-friendly practices that will actually save you money.
3. Increase customer loyalty.
More and more modern customers want to support brands that are environmentally conscious. Consider these statistics (source):
- More than two-thirds of consumers say they consider sustainability when making a purchase, and over one-third say they will pay more for sustainable products.
- Customers identified sustainable and ethical business practices as the second most important reason they remain loyal to a brand.
Yes, making your office eco-friendly isn’t quite the same thing as producing eco-friendly products– but it will nevertheless build customer loyalty among customers who want to support companies that prioritize sustainability.
Learn more about the business benefits of environmental responsibility here: The Beginner’s Guide to Corporate Social Responsibility
9 Ways to Make Your Office More Eco-Friendly
Now that we’ve explored the business benefits of environmental sustainability, let’s look at some steps you can take to make your office more eco-friendly — today!
1. Make the switch to renewable energy.
The old excuse for not switching to solar power — it’s too expensive! — is no longer acceptable. For one, the cost of buying and installing solar panels has dropped significantly in the last five years. And, investing in renewable energy will most likely result in a positive financial return in the long run. Here are some key benefits of adopting solar energy:
- You will save money on your electric bill.
- Solar panels last for a long time (more than 25 years).
- You will be eligible for significant tax benefits to mitigate the cost of installing solar power.
- Solar providers offer a fixed electricity cost, enabling you to accurately budget and plan for the future.
If installing solar panels is not feasible for your building, consider looking into green off-site energy plans. In other words, you can opt to have your office’s energy generated by a renewable energy source such as wind, solar, or biofuels. The cost of these plans is often comparable to traditional energy plans, and they offer a great alternative to on-site solar installation.
2. Properly recycle e-waste.
Let’s say your business just had a great year. As a reward, you’ve decided to finally replace your old computer monitors with brand new ones. Great news for your employees, but now you’re faced with figuring out what to do with the old monitors.
The easiest method would be to simply throw them in the dumpster — but this couldn’t be worse for the environment. Electronics that end up in landfills contain harmful chemicals like mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium, and chromium. These toxins often leak into soil and water supplies, causing major damage to the environment and our own drinking water. According to the United Nations, nearly 90% of electric-waste is dumped illegally (source).
Instead of throwing out all those old computers, jump online and search for your nearest e-Steward. If you’re unfamiliar, the e-Steward initiative was developed in response to concerns about the e-waste of wealthy nations being dumped into poorer countries. An e-Steward will take your old electronics, disassemble them, and then recycle the materials in a safe and ethical way.
3. Opt for eco-friendly office supplies.
Nowadays, just about every traditional office supply has a more sustainable and energy-efficient option. Examples include refillable bamboo pens, 100% recycled paper, and desktop computers that use energy-efficient screen lights. Sites like EnergyStar.gov offer extensive lists of energy-efficient products you can use in your eco-friendly office and elsewhere.
4. Create as much natural light as possible.
Maximizing natural light is a great way to conserve energy during office hours. Natural light reduces the need for artificial lighting and the energy required to heat or cool your office. Need more convincing? A recent study found that employees rank access to natural light and a view of the outdoors as their number one desire for their workplace environment (source).
There are several ways to increase natural light in your office. For example, an open floor plan will allow light to travel throughout your office space. The same goes for using energy-efficient glass walls instead of drywall. Even your office furniture makes a difference: you can immediately increase natural light by moving any large furniture that obstructs your windows.
5. Bring plants to the office.
Indoor plants help to create an oxygen-neutral environment and improve the quality of air your employees are breathing. In fact, a NASA study found that houseplants can remove up to 87% of air pollution in an office over a 24 hour period (source).
Much like natural light, indoor plants actually improve the wellbeing and productivity of your employees. A number of studies have revealed the following benefits to adding plants to office spaces (source):
- Reduce stress: Results of one study included a 37% drop in reported tension and anxiety, a 58% drop in depression, and a 38% drop in fatigue among workers when plants were added to their workspace.
- Boost productivity: Employee productivity increases by 15% when houseplants are introduced to work environments.
- Reduce sickness: A 2015 study found that work environments that incorporate natural elements reported a 15% higher well-being score. Introducing plants to office spaces have been linked to decreases in ill health symptoms like fatigue, dry skin, and nose or eye irritation.
6. Turn off and unplug electronics at the end of the day.
We all know the feeling: it’s the end of the day and you’re ready to bolt out the door. You’re starving, eager to relax, anxious to find out what mess your dog made while you were gone, etc. But imagine taking 10 extra seconds to unplug everything that won’t be in use overnight. Now, imagine every one of your employees does the same. It turns out, this small action reduce massive amounts of energy waste.
The U.S. Department of Energy reports that 75% of the electricity used to power electronics is consumed when they are turned off (source). Make it a company-wide policy to unplug appliances before leaving the office, and you’ll immediately save energy and money.
7. Organize a “green team”.
Creating a sustainability “team” is a great way to get employees engaged and excited about your eco-friendly efforts. This team may help to monitor your office’s sustainability efforts, brainstorm new ideas, and educate their colleagues about sustainable practices they can adopt throughout their day-to-day routines.
If you want to establish a green team at your office, here are some tips to consider:
- Set clear goals: Determine specific sustainability results your company wants to accomplish. Maybe your top priority is to increase recycling by a certain amount, or reduce your monthly energy usage by 20%. Communicate these goals to the rest of the office so everyone has a clear objective in mind.
- Schedule regular meetings: Make sure your green team meets at an established meeting location on a fixed schedule (say, once a month). This ensures that your business is evaluating its sustainability projects on a regular basis.
- Distribute monthly newsletters: Send out internal and external emails to keep your employees and customers in-the-know about your latest sustainability projects, results, or any other important updates.
8. Create monthly “green challenges”.
Nothing motivates employees like a fun challenge and an enticing prize. Institute a monthly green challenge where individual employees, teams, or departments compete for rewards by completing certain sustainability objectives.
For example, you might reward the department who recycles the most in one month with a free dinner at a restaurant of their choosing, an extra day of paid time off, or a week’s worth of free lunches. These prizes won’t break the bank, but they will motivate your entire staff to go green — and have some fun while they’re at it.
9. Join an eco-friendly certification program.
If you really want to get serious about making your office more sustainable, consider enrolling in a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program. If you’ve never heard of LEED, it’s an intensive green building program that aims to help building operators “maximize occupant health and productivity, use fewer resources, reduce waste and negative environmental impacts, and decrease life cycle costs” (source).
Certification is no easy feat, and will require your business to comply with a slew of environmental laws and regulations. But if you’re dedicated enough to the cause, enrolling in such a program will enable you to create the most eco-friendly office space possible — and will set your business apart as a leader in environmental responsibility.
Key Takeaways on Eco-Friendly Offices
There are many ways to make your office more sustainable, some more intensive and resource-dependent than others. We hope today’s post helped you understand that going green benefits everyone: your business, your employees, and of course, the entire planet. Whether you make major structural changes, or commit to something as easy as using recycled paper, any steps you take to make your office more energy-efficient and less wasteful are steps in the right direction.
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